Physical Science

“The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeleton of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life.” –Arthur Koestler For every galaxy out there, what we typically see — the stars — is only representative of a tiny fraction, maybe 2%, of all the mass that’s present…

There is a new attack by an anti-science and anti-environment talking head on a well respected climate scientist and his work. Mark Steyn is self publishing a book of quotes by scientists that allegedly disparage Dr. Michael Mann and the “Hockey Stick.” If the three examples Steyn provides to advertise his book are representative, Steyn’s…

“A princess is many things, and a raptor is one of them.” –Laura Cooper For those of us who love the movies, there are two things that are indelibly etched into our memories — not necessarily together — as Galactic, featuring Chali 2na, sing to us, if we Think Back. I’m referring, of course, to Disney…

“We are a singularity that makes music out of noise because we must hurry. We make a harvest of loneliness and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.” -Jack Gilbert This past week at Starts With A Bang saw five new stories about the Universe, from our own home planet to topics about the birth of…

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” -Bernard Baruch Take a common, macroscopic object — like an apple — and imagine what’s going on inside at the level of individual particles. At a small, fundamental scale, they’re just bouncing off of one another, rapidly in motion due to the…

I’ve been really busy with year-end wrap-up stuff, but have also posted a bunch of stuff at Forbes. which I’ve fallen down on my obligation to promote here… So, somewhat belatedly, here’s a collection of physics-y stuff that I’ve written recently: — Using Atoms To Measure Tiny Forces: A post reporting on some very cool…

“Soon the earth will tilt on its axis and begin to dance to the reggae beat to the accompaniment of earthquake. And who can resist the dance of the earthquake, mon?” –Peter Tosh But it isn’t true that the Earth’s axial tilt will change, is it? Or rather, if it did, how would you know? Believe…

“Scientific ideas should be simple, explanatory, predictive. The inflationary multiverse as currently understood appears to have none of those properties.” –Paul Steinhardt, 2014 Cosmic inflation is alternately talked about by serious scientists as either the definitive beginning to our Universe, the thing that happened before and set up the Big Bang with absolute certainty, or…

“People get cranky when you burst their bubble. Over time, advances in astronomy have relentlessly reinforced the utter insignificance of Earth on a celestial scale.” –Nathan Myhrvold When new stars form from a collapsing molecular cloud, the hottest, bluest, brightest stars emit high-energy ultraviolet radiation. This evaporates, ionizes and pushes the gas outwards, creating a bubble…

Graduation 2015

Commencement was today, the 14th of those that I’ve been to as a faculty member. As usual, the procession was led in and out by the Schenectady Pipe Band; I realized that after many years of this, I’m coming to associate “Scotland the Brave” with graduation… This was a really unpleasant year for me in…